MOSCOW, January 27 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made a “grave, possibly fatal mistake” and his chances of retaining power are getting “smaller and smaller” every day.
“President Assad has made a mistake while carrying out political reforms. He should have done everything much faster, attracting part of the moderate opposition, which was ready to sit at the table with him to his side,” Medvedev said in an interview with CNN.
“This was his grave mistake, and possibly a fatal one,” the Russian prime minister said.
“I think that with every day, every week and every month the chances of him retaining power are getting smaller and smaller,” Medvedev said. “But I repeat again, this must be decided by the Syrian people. Not Russia, not the United States, not any other country,” he said.
Syria has been locked in an increasingly bloody civil war since demonstrations broke out against President Assad in March 2011. According to UN estimates, at least 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Russia has faced heavy international criticism over its refusal to back UN sanctions against Syria, its last ally in the Arab world, over what it calls the pro-rebel bias of some resolutions proposed by Western nations. Moscow denies it is backing President Assad and says it is concerned that the Syrian president’s forced departure would only worsen the conflict.
“I have personally called Assad several times and said: conduct reforms, hold negotiations. In my view, unfortunately, the Syrian leadership is not ready for this,” Medvedev said.
Medvedev also warned against the situation in which the current political elite would be swept away by armed actions, “because then the civil war will last for decades.”
He said task for the international community now is to “sit the parties down for negotiations, and not just demand that Assad go and then be executed like (the late ex-Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi or be carried to court sessions on a stretcher like (Egypt’s) Hosni Mubarak.”